Side Effects and Risks

Massage therapy appears to have few serious risks if appropriate cautions are followed. A very small number of serious injuries have been reported, and they appear to have occurred mostly because cautions were not followed or a massage was given by a person who was not properly trained. 

Health care providers recommend that patients not have massage therapy if they have one or more of the following conditions:

  • Deep vein thrombosis (a blood clot in a deep vein, usually in the legs)
  • A bleeding disorder or taking blood-thinning drugs such as warfarin
  • Damaged blood vessels
  • Weakened bones from osteoporosis, a recent fracture, or cancer
  • A fever

Any of the following in an area that would be massaged:

  • An open or healing wound
  • A tumor
  • Damaged nerves
  • An infection or acute inflammation
  • Inflammation from radiation treatment

If you have one or more of the following conditions, be sure to consult your health care provider before having massage:

  • Pregnancy
  • Cancer
  • Fragile skin, as from diabetes or a healing scar
  • Heart problems
  • Dermatomyositis, a disease of the connective tissue
  • A history of physical abuse

Side effects of massage therapy may include:  

  • Temporary pain or discomfort
  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • A sensitivity or allergy to massage oils